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Engineering LibreTexts

5: Full Systems and Stories

  • Page ID
    11941
  • The technology is often the easiest part of any project. How people work together can often pose more of a challenge. Rainwater catchment systems provide countless opportunities as well as technical and social challenges. In all of these systems, the most important thing we build is trust. Built rainwater harvesting systems can provide water for gardens, toilet flushing, hand washing, household use, community use, landscape irrigation, commercial building use, or—with proper purification—even drinking. The following projects are examples of custom, dry, gravity-fed, built systems for single garden irrigation to a small community scale. More importantly, they are also examples of how communities came together to meet their needs with their resources:

    • Community Scale in Chiapas, Mexico
    • Water for School Use in La Yuca, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
    • Daycare Garden in Parras de la Fuente, Mexico
    • Water for a School Garden in Eureka, California, USA
    • Democracy Unlimited, Eureka, California
    • More Systems

     

    • 5.1: Community Scale in Chiapas, Mexico
      I had come hoping to work with Las Abejas, a pacifist contemporary of the Zapatistas, and, to that end, I was to meet with the local non-governmental organization (NGO), Otros Mundos (OM). We were meeting to determine if we were going to work together and, if so, toward what goals and in what capacities. I was excited and nervous. Here in Chiapas, it felt like I was starting at step zero, and, with my terrible Spanish, that can be a scary and exciting place to be.
    • 5.2: Water for School Use in La Yuca, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
      In 2010, Practivistas Chiapas (the summer abroad program) was mandated by the California State University system to move out of Mexico because of the drug war. In search of new locations, I landed in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. My first night there was filled with what have become sounds of comfort for me: the streams of music, especially bachata, from every colmado and the clack of dominoes.
    • 5.3: Daycare Garden in Parras de la Fuente, Mexico
      Parras de la Fuente is an oasis in the desert of Coahuila in Northern Mexico. As its name (grapevines of the fountain) suggests, Parras is replete with ample spring water and the first winery in the Americas. That said, the community members we worked with in Parras were very concerned about the threat of water privatization and water pollution from local industry. This political and environmental context was explored through my co-director, Dr. de la Cabada, and our community liaisons from UTC.
    • 5.4: Water for a School Garden in Eureka, California, USA
      For ten years, I tried to partner my Engineering 215 sophomore engineering course with a public grade school. However, public schools are typically risk-averse, and, year after year, I heard that such a partnership was unlikely. Instead, we partnered with non-profits that were willing to take a risk on sophomore level university students. We completed hundreds of projects with these partners and eventually landed some charter schools to start building trust in collaboratively built education.
    • 5.5: Democracy Unlimited, Eureka, California
      I first met the director of DUHC, David Cobb, at a community meeting I had organized in 2006 to look for community-based solutions for the problems facing our Northern California communities. I was impressed by his clarity and commitment to community action. In 2007, I was excited to learn that DUHC wanted a rainwater harvesting system to model resilient community technologies and provide water for their gardens, chickens, and landscaping.
    • 5.6: More Systems
      Dozens of projects are documented on Appropedia. These projects usually cover background, literature review, criteria, constraints, design, construction, maintenance, and testing. In addition, some of them have follow-ups from years later discussing successes, failures, and evolution. These innovations and implementation are all shared, open-source, to build upon, adapt, and improve rainwater harvesting for all at http://appropedia.org/Portal:Rainwater_ harvesting.
    • 5.7: Organizations
      I love to hear the amazing stories of communities and individuals coming together to meet their needs with their resources. I also love to meet organizations that help make that happen. The following two organizations, Isla Urbana and Paul Polak’s Spring Health, exemplify widely deployed, small-scale rainwater harvesting for a better future.